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'Gay Blood Drive' Calls For End Of FDA Donation Ban

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) - Silicon Valley lawmakers say gay men should no longer be banned from donating blood and are calling for members of the LGBT community to join national National Gay Blood Drive events later this week to get the word out.

South Bay Congressman Mike Honda (D-San Jose), Santa Clara Supervisor Dave Cortese were being joined by other local lawmakers Monday to call for an end to the Food and Drug Administration's nearly two-decade-old ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men.

"Despite tremendous advances in the medical and biotech fields, the Food and Drug Administration still bans blood donations from gay and bisexual men," Congressman Honda said in a press release. "The American Medical Association now opposes this discriminatory and outdated restriction. Our society is increasingly supporting equality for LGBT people. I will fight this ban that only marginalizes, stigmatizes, and stereotypes healthy people across the country."

The 1985 law – instituted amid fears of the growing HIV epidemic - bans any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from giving blood, while making no similar stipulations for potentially-infected heterosexual donors. Opinions on the ban's efficacy have shifted dramatically in recent years.

"The American Medical Association opposes the ban. They say it's not medically or scientifically, viable," said National Gay Blood Drive spokesman Jay Franzone. "85 members of Congress have signed a letter requesting the change with the Department of Health and Human Services."

Officials planned a press conference, in partnership with Blood Centers of the Pacific, in front of the County Government Buildings on West Hedding Street in San Jose at Noon. Blood donations will be taken there from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

"With the risk of man-made and natural disasters that could injure thousands of people, it's inconceivable that we would be turning away gay donated blood that has been scientifically tested to be safe," said Campbell City Councilmember Evan Low. "I urge the FDA to join the U.K., Canada, and Australia in rescinding this lifetime discriminatory ban."

Opponents of the ban have planned 60 "National Gay Blood Drive" events for Friday, July 11th. A similar day of event was held last year. Gay men will not be able to donate, but rather are encouraged to bring eligible friends.

"At our events, eligible allies who give blood will receive a donor name tags that say 'I donated for' (with the name of a gay friend listed). These will be counted and sent to the FDA to visually convey how much we can contribute to the nations blood supply," said Franzone.

The campaign also has more than 2,500 signatures on a petition requesting an end to the ban.

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